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Study Abroad: Opening a World of Opportunities

Posted by Lydia Aleman Associate Vice President of University Advancement
Lydia Aleman Associate Vice President of University Advancement
In her 18 years with UT Pan American, Lydia Aleman has provided financial expert
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on Thursday, 03 November 2011 in News & Updates

It’s easy to see why the International Women’s Board of the UTPA Foundation has made fundraising for Study Abroad Scholarships such a priority since the group’s inception in 1989.

Whether it’s studying art and creative writing in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; walking in the footsteps of venerable authors through London and Bath, England; analyzing the engineering and architectural wonders of Europe’s centuries-old buildings; or becoming immersed in the people, customs and cuisine of China, study abroad programs truly are opening a world of opportunities for a growing number of students at UT Pan American.

Dr. Kenneth Buckman, associate provost for student engagement and experiential learning and former director of the Rafael A. “Felo” and Carmen Guerra Honors Program, has guided numerous study abroad adventures and knows firsthand the impact of such opportunities on the students. “I think it is such a transformative experience unlike any other, where the world becomes the classroom, a world of immediate and experiential learning. It’s kind of a crowning jewel of education. Every year that we go, I am just blown away with the students giving those presentations on site,” he said. “Imagine the students in Turkey who gave their talk at the Haghia Sophia, the greatest church in Christendom for 1,000 years.”

This past year, the University offered some 20 different study abroad programs including ones in Peru, Spain, Thailand, England, Italy, France, China and Morocco. A number of the students who participated had never traveled before, and many couldn’t have gone without financial assistance – either scholarships or other aid.

But for all of them, the sacrifices to get to their destination were well worth the effort. You only have to read their trip reports to understand the impact study abroad experiences have had on them. We wanted to share just a few comments from students from the Rafael A. “Felo” and Carmen Guerra Honors Program who benefited from IWB Study Abroad Scholarships in 2010-2011:

Edgar Armando Casillas, Senior Biology Major from Edinburg, Texas

We arrived at the Beijing Capital International Airport, with the valuable aid of the International Women’s Board. When I set foot on China, I was one excited student. I was unaware that I was about to start an adventure that would change my life and expand my horizons in an unimaginable manner. There was an incomparable sense of accomplishment in knowing that I was chosen to participate in the China-Honors Study Abroad Program, and that I was standing on the other side of the world.

Charles K. Danso, Junior Finance & Business Major from Ghana, West Africa

From walking to Tiananmen Square to withdrawing money from the bank to a three-hour drive to see the Qing tombs, everything was a learning experience. Presentations from students on various topics such as Confucius, The Great Wall of China, Traditional Medicine, the Great Leap Year, the Forbidden City (Gu Gong) and various others were significant as they were done in the environment to which the topic centered on. I remember being incredulous when a student was presenting her topic on the Forbidden City in the Forbidden City. I could not believe I was in China, sitting in the Forbidden City and listening to a presentation on the Forbidden City. “City as Text” was a wonderful experience which made me pay particular attention to the environment.  

Stephanie Rico, Senior Biology/Pre-med Major from Olmito, Texas

I have lived my entire life in a region where being Mexican-American is the predominant heritage and the language of choice oftentimes is a mixture of two languages. Interestingly enough, it is only in the border towns that such a blending of two cultures is so vivid. Unfortunately, I had been exposed to this area for so long that I had lost an appreciation for how unique this region is. During my travel experience to China, I regained a perspective that I had lost and achieved knowledgeable appreciation for traditions and social customs of a foreign culture.

Ashley Bose, Spring 2011 in Chemistry/Pre-med Graduate from McAllen, Texas (now enrolled in Baylor College of Medicine, Houston)

Studying abroad was a wonderful experience and I definitely encourage more people to try it, especially science majors. My major is pre-medical chemistry and my minors are biology, business, and psychology. This trip was completely out of my comfort zone and made me re-think what I had believed for so long – that art lacked purpose. The whole purpose of college is to become a more open minded individual and studying abroad did that for me. I am going to medical school next year and, yes, I will be living, eating, and breathing science, but I have a unique experience that sets me apart and makes me a more cultured and worldly individual – my three week adventure in Italy – and I have the Study Abroad Program to thank for that. If I can see the science in art and learn to appreciate the beauty of sculptures and paintings the way that I appreciate atoms and cells, then it is clear that studying abroad has made an indelible impression that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Kristen Alayne Hopperstad, Summer 2011 Graduate in Biology from San Benito, Texas

As a biology major with an interest in ecology, studying humanities in Venice, Florence, and Rome would, at first glance, seem out of place. If I wished to pursue science, shouldn’t I choose a program more closely related to my degree? I say no. I chose to go to college, not merely for a diploma, not merely to increase my salary prospects, but to receive an in-depth, holistic education – to become a learned individual in not only the sciences but the arts as well.…While in Italy a sense of the universalism of humanity was inspired within me. I developed a deep appreciation for the accomplishments of humankind, an understanding of the unbounded greatness and terrible destructive forces we possess, saw the interconnectedness of all forms of learning, all peoples and all events.…I see the world with new eyes and have grown as a human being. I cannot thank you (IWB) enough for helping fund this trip and allowing me this beautiful experience. It will not only forever remain as a treasured memory, but will shape the way I live my life, my interactions with my fellow people, and my goals as a career woman and as a person.

If you would like to learn how you can help more UT Pan American students change their lives through Study Abroad, just drop us a note at foundation@utpa.edu or give us a call at (956) 665-5301.

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Lydia Aleman Associate Vice President of University Advancement

In her 18 years with UT Pan American, Lydia Aleman has provided financial expertise and wise counsel to the UTPA Foundation as the primary day-to-day liaison between the two entities. A BBA and MBA graduate of UTPA, Lydia began her career at the University as accountant to the Foundation and in recent years has twice been tapped as the chief advancement officer while national searches were conducted for a divisional vice president. Today, she oversees the Office of Development and Advancement Services, working closely with the President on all fundraising initiatives for both the University and the Foundation. Before joining UTPA, she served as director of finance for the City of Alamo and as manager of accounting for COSTEP (Council for South Texas Economic Progress).

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